Durban - A Comrades runner who snatched a Mickey Mouse stuffed toy from a five-year-old child in Durban - as his good luck charm - has been urged to give it back.
The Limpopo runner - Tshokela Maphori, of the Marula Marathon Club - said he did not realise the child would be left distraught, but said he had no way of returning it.
While cheering runners at 45th Cutting in Sherwood, the boy was left bawling and inconsolable when he realised his beloved toy was gone as the dummy-sucking athlete disappeared in the throng of runners.
“He just took it from my hand and ran away,” Arman Moodliar, of Overport, said on Tuesday. “I am going to find another big man to get it back for me and send him to jail. It is not nice to take something that does not belong to you.”
Arman, a Grade R pupil at Westville Hindu School said: “I want my Mickey Mouse back please… I’m crying and crying for him...”
The Mickey Mouse fanatic said the toy was a gift from his grandmother. He said the “big man” had perhaps thought Mickey was a trophy.
Arman’s gran, Premla Moodliar, said they had left home at 4am to go to her daughter’s house in Sherwood to watch the start of the marathon.
“This has been a ritual for years. My family was standing along the road on 45th Cutting. Arman was standing next to my daughter, Tamara Balliram.”
She said as the runners streamed past, they cheered them on.
“Arman and Tamara were holding Mickey. They were screaming words of encouragement to the runners. Suddenly one of them snatched Mickey and continued running. There was nothing we could do because of the large number of runners. He disappeared within seconds.”
She said the little boy “howled and howled for hours”.
“I managed to pacify him by telling him I would buy him another one. I eventually went to Build-a-Bear at Gateway and bought another Mickey for him. It set me back another R350.”
She said she had bought the first stuffed toy only on Friday.
“He loves Mickey Mouse. He watches the cartoons whenever he is home. Arman bonded with the soft toy almost instantly. In the two days that he had it, he never let it out of his sight.”
Moodliar said she did not think that the runner intended to steal the stuffed toy from her grandson.
“It happened just after the race had started. I think the runner was in a festive mood. But, he should have known better than to take a toy from a child. I just want him to return it to Arman. As much as he has another one, it’s not the same to him.”
On Monday, Moodliar spotted a photo of the runner that took Mickey in the special Comrades edition of the Daily News.
She called the newsroom and appealed for assistance to get the toy back.
“The guy in the paper with the dummy and Mickey Mouse toy... he took the toy from my grandson,” she said.
Maphori was tracked to his Limpopo home, where he said Mickey was safely tucked in his bed.
Maphori, 32, said he was 7km into the race when he saw the little boy waving the Mickey Mouse toy.
“It was my good luck charm. I held the bear right through. He gave me the power to win (finish),” he said. “Now he sleeps right next to me in my bed. I like it too much. It is like having my very own baby.”
Maphori was surprised when he was told that little Arman was pining for his toy.
“Okay... okay. I stay in Polokwane. I cannot come back to Durban,” he then said.
“They can come and fetch it from me. It will be sad to let it go. But I don’t want to upset the baby.”
Maphori, who is unemployed, finished 4 470th, in 10:34:44 in his first attempt at the Comrades Marathon.
He said he had been running since childhood and was determined to secure a place in the top 10 next year.
When asked why he sucked a dummy, Maphori said it de-stressed and motivated him.
“The dummy gives me great motivation. I bought it at Pep Stores before I came to Durban,” he said. “It is now with Mickey Mouse.”
He also hoped that children watching the Comrades would remember him and be motivated to exercise and also take part in the marathon.
Moodliar appealed to anyone in Polokwane to help her get Mickey back to Durban.
“I am willing to pay for the cost of couriering it if someone can help to fetch it from Maphori and send it to me,” she said.
Moodliar can be contacted at 031 208 6412.